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Unity makes Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for devotion

Eight religious leaders delivered their gatherings together for eight periods in one area. It was a hazardous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum examined upon a mob sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she said with a soft smile. Today we all do something very brave.

Certainly this gathering was unlike any she, the leader of an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, was used to addressing. As well as the usual meagre dress and kippah tattered in her synagogue, there were some intersects worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their attires gathered together at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religious garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for precisely eight epoches, a music academy in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, identified Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes to worship together in one room. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was launched by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religion fleshes two rabbis, a Franciscan monk, a Catholic priest, a Coptic deaconess and a female Muslim community leader who were very traditional in their beliefs and rehearses, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never felt something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big jeopardy and a huge step. But this is not a political campaign; we wanted people are derived from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping actuality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not merely brought closer Israels discordant beliefs, but too men and women, which is almost unheard of in such inter-religious gatherings.

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the strips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of prayer and song. Photo: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight governors had matched once a week to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a entirely new know-how. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has applied a different reputation in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, who are originally from Lebanon, admitted he had not met anyone from the Coptic church before. Fr Alberto Fer, the Franciscan monk, had never spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of mixing devotions and habits, each night the devotion residence was hosted by a different religious figure, and most of the devotion done through music and song, a common uniter. The prayer book handed out was in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Speaking after the first nights happen, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same conversation, she said. It cant precisely has become a recognition, this has to be the energy for the next step. We will use this as the seed to structure Jerusalem a permanent home where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

In a first step towards handing Amen longevity, the eight religious leaders all met again on Wednesday for a special ritual to tag International Peace Day.

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important locate for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who roamed from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion evenings.

In a climate where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith solidarity can be dangerous. The imams expected not to be identified on the programme.

Ihab Balh are recognizing that constructing development projects had been a challenging gradation, but that his work with these imams over the last few decades had laid the groundwork to return them into Amen and attained it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it demonstrates other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he said. Of route, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and people opposing, but its important at the same time to bush the seeds of beings coming together and find one another. Thats what I am doing here.

The eight religious leaders, alongside musicians, sit before the parish. Picture: Michal Fattal

Location, spot, location

In a city where geography is politics, the site of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem admitted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum declared it had been a formidable enterprise, having been refused time and again by places in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for fright the project would motivate anger.

The managers eventually settled on the smaller music school, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a pious website for all three religions. The building, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip cable formerly used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green line from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the devotion residence. Thin rows of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each accepting a quotation from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their accompanying musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik admitted he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had converged some resist in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt really persuaded at the start, he said. The hypothesi was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started rally up, I was stunned at how real rapports developed between us all and I discovered there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I imagine, is the humble beginning we need to change folks hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically violent political climate, Amen has not been an easy project to be publicly attached to.

But Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed, one of the eight organisers and a respected Muslim community leader in the Israeli Arab town of Fureidis, said she was unafraid of her participate being view as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a devout Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her sees filled with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they interpret the space Im garmented in wall street they are afraid of me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to underscore there is a difference between what I speak in the Quran and how this is act in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I feel a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

She added: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various texts but in the end “were all” reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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